I’m going to try to switch my review posting date from every other Saturday to every other Sunday. It seems like I have been finishing up books on the weekends, so this gives me an extra day off of work to finish reading and write up a review. It feels weird since I have uploaded on Saturdays for years, but let’s see how it goes! Hopefully I will miss less upload dates this way.
Now, to the review of The Winter People. There are two timelines in this book. One timeline takes place in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s following Sara Harrison Shea. Sara shares her perspectives on the people and events in her childhood and during her young married life through her journal. However, Sara’s death was very odd. Some say she went mad after the death of her daughter, and in Sara’s journal she claims that her daughter came back from the dead. Sara’s journal was published and became part the area’s local legend. In the present day, 19-year-old Ruthie stumbles upon Sara’s journal after her mother disappears, which leads Ruthie down a rabbit hole of other mysteries. As Ruthie and her little sister, Fawn, search for their missing mother, they uncover family secrets and discover things that perhaps would be better left buried.
The characters didn’t do a lot for me, sadly. Sara and Ruthie (arguably the main characters though there are sections from a few other characters’ perspectives as well) were just fine. I preferred reading from Sara’s sections because I found her childhood and adult experiences more interesting. As a side note, I think I might have also enjoyed a book solely based on Sara’s life. Since we read from Sara’s journal, it makes you wonder just how reliable she is as a narrator, which is something I often enjoy. And with a few chapters from her husband’s perspective mixed in, this adds to the reader questioning Sara’s stability. Ruthie and the present day sections were interesting enough, and they add a whole other layer to Sara’s story, but I didn’t find the present-day characters or storyline quite as engaging. There are a few other women tangled up in the mystery of Ruthie’s missing mother, but I found them forgettable beyond their role of advancing the plot.
For me, the best parts of the book were the plot and atmosphere. Sometimes multiple perspectives and timelines can make a plot feel muddled or confusing, and sometimes one timeline/perspective is clearly stronger or more interesting, which makes the narrative feel unbalanced and/or makes the reader bored with one side of the story. I liked the way they were integrated here though. Despite having a preference for Sara’s perspective, the alternating timelines built tension, and when one gave me a new answer about something, it would often raise more questions, which made the book a very fast read. The twists are fun, but I guessed several reveals in the latter half of the novel. The author is quite good at setting up tense moments. I read this via audiobook though, so the narration probably also helped increase the tension via tone and pacing. I was hooked until the end, yet I don’t think that I will remember this book a year or two from now.
In the end, I gave The Winter People 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a quick, entertaining read that made me think about grief and loss, but in my opinion, it didn’t do enough to set itself apart from other, similar stories I have read.